Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dreams Do Come True – I got THE CALL

I can finally answer that most magical of questions we writers ask each other: “What were you doing when you got THE CALL?” (“The Call” is that amazing moment when an editor/or your agent calls to say, “we/they want to buy your book!”)

I got THE CALL after work, and I was doing two of my fave things: Listening to The Brother Kite and playing World of Warcraft.

Earlier in the week, my agent, Richard Curtis, had called to tell me that we had “a nibble” on Empress Game, my space opera. Titan Books was apparently interested, and they wanted to know if Empress Game was going to be part of a trilogy. The honest answer? I have no idea! I’d lost a little faith that Empress Game would be “the book” that I sell to a major publisher, and had already moved on to working on a new epic fantasy novel. I hadn’t thought past Empress Game as far as space opera was concerned.

But hey, if you’ve got a publisher’s interest, you better be ready with something!

So I scrambled to come up with 2 book blurbs that might be possible for books 2 and 3 of a trilogy. My two critique partners, Diana Botsford and Jen Brooks were a tremendous help. I called them in a panic, saying “I have no ideas!” and they helped me to realize that of course I had ideas, I just hadn’t considered any of them seriously yet.

The two blurbs were sent and I held my breath, waiting to see if Titan Books was more than just “interested.” When my agent called me two days later with THE CALL, he surprised the heck out me, but not for the reason you’d expect. Here’s what he said:

“I haven’t heard back from Titan yet. I’m calling because Ace Books made an offer on the trilogy.”

I might have fainted.

I definitely said “Holy shit!” (Real professional of me, right?)

So that started off what would be a tense wait. Richard brought the offer over to Titan Books to see if they wanted to counter-offer. One week of intense nail-biting later, I got more amazing news…Titan wanted the book too!

I definitely fainted at that point.

Negotiations ensued, and now I can proudly say, I am the newest Sci-Fi author of TITAN BOOKS!

Here is the announcement of the deal as it appeared on Publisher’s Marketplace:
February 11, 2014

International rights:
UK Fiction 

Rhonda Mason's debut EMPRESS GAME, the first in a space-opera trilogy, in which an exiled psionic gladiatrix goes undercover to fight and free her homeworld from imperial occupation and discovers she holds the key to a galaxy-wide struggle for political domination, to Alice Nightingale of Titan, at auction, by Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates (world English).
Translation: Baror International Agency

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Scandalous -- call for stories!

One of my favorite newer publishers, Entangled Publishing, has an awesome open call for submissions in the historical romance category. Check it out!

Who's That Girl?

Scandalous Books invites you to answer....


Who's That Girl?
We invite you to participate in a unique anthology opportunity using a book cover as a writing prompt. Who is the woman in the picture? What is her story? You tell us. We'll choose four stories that entertain us the most. They need to be romance, they need to happen in the early 20th Century, they need to be 20-25k, and they need to be submitted by February 15, 2014. The rest is up to you. We are open to any heat level and any tone. Let your imagination take you someplace fun, intriguing, and most especially...scandalous. 

Please submit to: 
and put Who's That Girl in the ATTN: box.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Struck by the Muse

Each of my speculative fiction stories has been born from a single image.

They’ve begun from one singular icon, the slice of a frozen moment in time that somehow captures the entire soul of the story, even if I don’t understand what that soul is yet. No matter the million of changes a story undergoes in its creation, these images have been as true to the final draft as they had been to the beginning.

The revelation of each of these images made such an impact that I can remember where I was at the time they came to me. I might have been turning over ideas before then, pondering this or that, but the story, the real story, did not exist until that moment.

I am about to start on my next novel, which is one of two I had begun 6 years ago now (and subsequently abandoned for years on a massive writing hiatus, Empress Ascendant being the other.) I’m sitting down to plot and this has me thinking, “What am I trying to say with this story? What is the heart of this story?” That brings me back to my original image for this story, and I wanted to share two of my story icons with you.

Sworn Sword

Sworn Sword is my first epic fantasy, and was my thesis novel at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. It’s the story of a female swordfighter, Tae, who is on a quest to find the child of prophecy. This child will be a sorcerer of untold power, and is needed by both Tae and her enemy to activate—or destroy—an ancient weapon.

Tae has a lifelong hatred of sorcerers and all things magical. Her prejudice is extreme, and being involved in such a quest, forced to work with another sorcerer, is a grueling trial for her. Being a swordswoman is all she knows, it’s who she is. She places all of her self-worth on her martial skills. Without her blade, in her mind, she is nothing.

The iconic image for Sworn Sword came to me in the spring of 2003. I was commuting to UMass Lowell for my geology degree. I had parked my car and was walking into Olney for an 8:30 class. The sun was shining, and just before I reached the building’s doors, a simple image hit me.

It was a hand, palm up. Inscribed on the center of the palm was a solid 8-pointed star. The skin of the star was a silvery grey, and had a sheen like hematite.

How in the hell, you say, is that a whole book?

At the time I had no idea. I wasn’t even sure whose hand it was. At the time I had been thinking of this story of a female sorcerer, but nothing would come together. I had no plot and little backstory. Her name was Ilara, and even though I wanted to make her the hero of an epic fantasy novel, I couldn’t, for some reason, find her story.

That’s because I had it all wrong. Here’s the spoiler of the ending and why that one star matters so much:

That hand is Tae’s, and that mark comes when she unleashes her own magic for the first time at the end of the book. It is the sign that she herself is the child of prophecy they have been searching for all along. She is the sorcerer. It’s the very last thing the reader sees as the book closes. (It’s really part one of a trilogy or somesuch, but the rest are not written)

My current novel - Travelers

Because it’s so dear to me, I’m keeping the title of this work to myself for now. Let’s just call it Travelers. I am about one-third of the way into the first draft, and far from understanding the entire story. I can’t give you the full depth of the meaning of Traveler’s icon yet, because I don’t know it myself.

The icon is very much with me today, though, as I get down to work on the novel, and I just wanted to share it.

I was at my mum’s house, in her kitchen. I had finished Sworn Sword and was looking for my next novel. I wasn’t even sure what it was going to be except that it would have elves and magic. Why elves, I have no idea. I was just adamant about that. Of course it’ll probably be the first thing that gets changed ;-) 

My first ideas for it had come, hilariously, from SeventhSanctum’s name generator. If you haven’t played with this, you should. It is both helpful and ridiculous. I can’t tell if it’s trying to mock the entire SF genre, but it does a fairly good job of it while generating names of everything from elves to pirate ships to alien races. You must check it out.

The generator had spit out two-word combo names and I was immediately struck by one. Grimcinder. I knew he would be an elven bard with dire portents. Again, why elven? Who can know the mind of a fantasy writer ;-)

The image for this novel, the one that gave me the main character and the basis for the entire magic system, came while I was sitting at the kitchen table, in the sunshine of course, sorting through some Magic: The Gathering cards. This is the art for one of the cards, done by the fabulous Rebecca Guay.

This is the main character of Travelers, her name is Silmande. What her story is, and what she is, well . . . you’ll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

1 Star + 2 Stars Does Not Equal 5 Stars

I lately joined Goodreads, (check me out!) and I am loving using their electronic book shelf to build my tbr list and also mark off what I’ve already read. What’s stymieing me? The ratings. 1-5 stars should be simple enough, right? 

5 = I’d recommend it to everyone, I loved it
4 = I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t perfect
3 = Passable, it was a good time, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it
2 = You’d have to be bad for me to give you this 2, I’d warn people off of your books and want my money back
1 = Holy shit, you are giving books a bad name. I wish I’d never met you.

See, here’s my problem. I need a different set of rankings for each genre, and I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Let’s talk my two favorites, Romance versus Spec Fic. (ie fantasy and sci fi) (also note: I write and love both genres)

Now, for me, what makes a good romance is sizzling romantic/sexual tension, not just sex sex sex. In fact if they never even get to the sex part, I’m fine with that. But when their eyes meet and they have that, “I feel like I’m going to die if I don’t have you, but I can’t” moment, I swoon. That’s the good stuff. The anticipation, the warring. But I digress.

Romances, as we know, are constrained a bit more by formula than SF is. There pretty much HAS to be a HEA (happily ever after), the main characters are going to be the Hero and Heroine who fall in love, they’re going to fight against it before they give in, and so on. This type of story can be done intricately, uniquely, beautifully, breath-takingly, originally and artfully. Formula doesn’t mean bad. It just means…restrictive.

I’ll be honest. The first book I ever came up with was Sworn Sword, a high fantasy novel. The first book I ever wrote was Dishonorable Intentions, a historical romance. Why? I found writing within the structure of a romance just (and don’t hate me for this) easier. I could give the whole “easy to do, hard to do well” argument and so on, but you know I love romance, so you can assume I have nothing but respect for it.

Let me be very honest here, it’s easier to plot a romance, and because the main focus of the story HAS to be on the romance, the rest of the plot is by necessity, simpler.

Where am I going with this, you ask? The rankings.

For me (and I think this has to be true of others) a romance novel that’s a 5 just isn’t the same as an epic fantasy that’s a 5. There’s just so much more to an epic fantasy novel. Character development, plotting, themes, world building…it’s no contest. And there’s nothing wrong with that.  As much as I hate the saying, “it is what it is” is valid here.

I’ll happily give great romance novels like Sealed with a Curse by Cecy Robson a 5 on Goodreads, but I wish I could say “5 for a romance” so people don’t think I think it’s on par with Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince, which is a 5 million for fantasy. (Is 5 million stars a valid ranking? It should be.)

 How do you feel about giving 5’s in one genre vs another?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Time Has Come…for Jaguars

So there I was, Barnes and Noble, three years ago, standing in a place I rarely find myself—in front of the Harlequin book display. What was I looking for? Why the Harlequin Historicals, of course, which they stopped putting in their displays at that time. (The bastards!) Thus thwarted, I was left in want of a book. I had a need. I wanted…something. I didn’t know what.
Then I saw the Silhouette Nocturne offering that month and a cover caught my eye. It was called Sentinels: Wolf Hunt, and it was all green and bad-ass looking, without a cheezy clinch cover.

As opposed to a cheezy clinch cover:

Shoot me now, I can’t help but disrespect the book even knowing the helpless author had no say.

Needless to say, Sentinels: Wolf Hunt caught my eye and shouted, “I’m what you’ve been looking for, grab me now and start reading. Well ok, not while you’re driving home, but then DIRECTLY after you park. Maybe before you get out. Well, at least take your seat belt off…” (What can I say, it was a chatty book)
So, buy it I did and take it home I did.
I read about 30 pages into it and stopped, put the book down, not to be touched again.
Now there I was last night, 3 years and 3 moves later, and Wolf Hunt has been with me the whole time, sitting on my shelf in the dreaded tbr pile. (To Be Read).
Suddenly, the book’s time was NOW. I knew it without a doubt. I wasn’t even sure it had survived the big move to Florida when I’d left two bookshelves full of books still at my mum’s house in NH. But after a search of my 4 bookshelves here, (yes, 4, in a 2 bedroom house, some shelves 2-books deep) I found it!
I settled in for a night of reading, trying to remember why page 33 was dogged eared. I figured it out shortly. This was the 4th book in a paranormal romance series.
Now, don’t get too worked up, a paranormal romance series is nothing like a fantasy series. They have different hero/heroines each time so you don’t normally need to read them in too much order. My plan last night had been, if I like the one I already owned (the 4th), then I’ll go back and buy the others.
However, 30pgs in, it became clear that if I kept reading this one, she’d spoil the endings of all the others for me with the way she kept referencing them. That, and my enjoyment of the book so far, convinced me to bust out the trusty ole Kindle and buy the first book, Sentinels: Jaguar Night.

Wow...he is so not attractive. Is he supposed to be? Yikes! Ok...moving on...

Now I’m reading this (and planning on reading the ones that come after) in attempt to finish a book that has been on the tbr pile for 3 years.
Mind you, that’s not the longest a book has been on my tbr pile. The record for the longest I’ve physically had a book that’s sitting on the tbr pile belongs to C.S. Frieman’s Book One of the Coldfire Triolgy, Black Sun Rising. 8 years and counting.

Michael Whelan’s cover art alone convinced me to purchase it. That series’ time approaches rapidly, though, I assure you.

As does this series’ time, given as a gift by one of my bffs, Justin Formanek. War of the Spider Queen.

Considering my next book revolves around betrayals, a series about the Drow is timely.
What’s the longest you’ve physically owned a book and not read it?

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Look what arrived on my doorstep this week!

My first novel, Dishonorable Intentions, was published in ebook format 5 years ago but never went to print. When I received my royalty check last month I had payment for royalties on a paperback copy, to my immense surprise. I checked my ancient email address and wouldn’t you know, the book had been released in paperback format back in October! The publisher had emailed to tell me but I never check that email anymore.


Now I have my very own paperback copy of my first novel!

While the cover is gorgeous, you should kind of ignore it. Looks like a contemporary, right? It’s a Regency-set historical romance. So silly. But I can’t complain, since the cover is beautiful.
I am one happy author right now :)